Self Drive Safari Zambia and Zimbabwe

Jul 5th, 2007, 06:34 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 161
Self Drive Safari Zambia and Zimbabwe

Self Drive Safari, Zambia and Zimbabwe

My wife and I are planning an African self drive safari trip to Zambia and Zimbabwe for this July 2007 and in the sprit of sharing...

This itinerary was thought out, planned and assembled by Luangwablondes, a frequent, reliable and valued poster on Fodor’s

This will be the third African self drive safari trip Luangwablondes has planned for us in a row. All the trips he’s planned have been beyond spectacular and we are very grateful for his help.

Basically, we rent a fully kitted out, Land Rover Defender from, and then drive from Johannesburg, South Africa, though the Beitbridge Border post into Zimbabwe (2006) or through the Martins Drift border post into Botswana (2005) and head for the game parks.

NOTE: If you download Google Earth and select “Featured Content” in the LAYERS window, you can view some of the places mentioned by GPS coordinates.

At a crazy low price, Tracks4Africa
has the best computer bases travel maps, with features and waypoints updated frequently by the overland community.

No Reservations

In past years, making park reservations has been essential. The self drive campsites in Moremi and Chobe, Botswana fill up fast and choice places in Zambia and Zimbabwe are not much better.

This year, we’ve made two significant changes; the Bushlore camper will be delivered to us in Lusaka - thus avoiding driving the above mentioned 2,400 kilometer round trip from Johannesburg to the wildlife parks.

Not that we did not have adventures on the road, but, as it turns out, the cost is the same if we drive round trip from Johannesburg to Lusaka, (camper rental, diesel, hotel, and border fees) or have Bushlore transfer the camper to us in Lusaka.

Although the airfare is significantly more when flying into Lusaka instead of Johannesburg, the extra time saved, adds five extra days to the schedule, and we decided to pay for that luxury.

Luangwablondes has designed the entire trip around short jumps from one destination to the next. The plan allows for game or bush walks in the early mornings, (golden hour for photography and wildlife) then some rest up time before we begin a leisurely drive - often through remote and rarely visited villages not tainted by tourists (Msoro S13.634252 E 31.931290) - stopping often for village chats and photography, before we arrive at a new camp and begin preparations for a late afternoon safari.

The second change is the lack of reservations. For the most part, we have no reservations at all.

We do have a schedule to move the trip along, and an absolutely necessary and quite rare reservation for Chitake Springs, Zimbabwe that will give us one of the only two campsites that are ever available.

And we’ll visit North Luangwa National Park, (NLNP) where exclusivity takes on another word.

Exclusivity = My wife and I alone, in a remote area, walking, feet on the ground, with wildlife all around us.

North Luangwa National Park

This 4,636 square kilometer park, know primarily for its walking safaris, is only accessible through the six seasonal camp/safari operators granted permission to conduct walking safaris, so, reservations are necessary, especially, if you have some time restraints.

But, NLNP also has a community bases campsite (Chifunda Bushcamp) where we plan to stay. There, ex-poachers are happily available as your private bush walking guides

Chifunda Bushcamp

NLNP Poaching

Remote Tracks

We will take on some remote tracks traveling between North and South Luangwa National Parks (S12.091873 E 32.333364) and record them for Tracks 4 Africa so future self drivers can enjoy alternative routes and scenery.

These are old Hunters tracks, infrequently used and travel along side the Luangwa River. These tracks cut 20 kilometers off the trip through Chiwesa Village to South Luangwa Park

NOTE: We’re glad that some of our previous tracks have been included in Google Earth and Tracks 4 Africa. S16.102645 E29.488205

South Luangwa National Park

In South Luangwa National Park (SLNP), Luangwablonds has laid out a fantastic night drive between camps outside of the park.

This particular area, around Mfuwe (S13.10485 E31.78276) has great wildlife sightings at night.

As Luangwablondes puts it, “After having dinner in the Mfuwe area, drive down some tracks to retire for the evening at another campsite. A normal 20 minute drive could easily turn into 2 hours if one’s timing and luck is ideal”

The Luangwa River boarders SLNP and game drives are equally rewarding on either side of the river. Luangwablondes has previously taken this drive many times and guarantees it can be as good as any park in Africa, and has ZERO Fees.

Mutombuku Ceremony

Our first major stop out of Lusaka is the celebrated Mutombuku Ceremony.

We have a meeting set up with the Mata Kazembe, the chief of the East Luanda people, where we will bow, clap our hands and bring gifts.

NOTE: 80% of the land in Zambia is controlled by 600 chiefs

Later, we’ll camp at the Ntumbachushi Falls

Actually, we’ll plan to camp at a few waterfalls while in Zambia. Waterfalls are ubiquitous in Zambia; they’re beautiful and are often located in rugged, secluded areas surrounded by stunning geographical features and with free camping. What a deal.

Msoro Tracks

Msoro Track is another remote track that we will record for Tracks 4 Africa

Starting out near the Mfuwe International Airport (S13.260346 E 31.933752), Msoro Tracks could provide an adventurous short cut from South Luangwa National Park to Lusaka

These tracks will lead us to another meeting with a chief, Chief Msoro.
(Msoro S13.634252 E 31.931290)

Along routes where tourism increases, whether it be backpackers, overland trucks or up-market visitors, the lives of villages improves, and with that in mind, Luangwablondes suggests we feel out Chief Msoro and propose he build a campsite at the damn near his village. A campsite and overland route through this largely ignored area of Zambia could bring an economic benefit to the communities in route.

Along with the overland traffic, some shops or stalls offering local produce and goods could also motivate the local anti-poaching teams to move into the area and start up a program, similar to the hugely successful job they have been doing in North and South Luangwa National Parks.

This would be a prize for any community and in the long run, secure employment for many people.

And there are some major sights to see too, the oldest Cathedral in Zambia is near Msoro Village.

St. Luke's Cathedral (S3.590512 E31.886767)

It’s Not That Scary

This post has gotten a bit longer than I expected and few will read this through, but what you have to know, what I’d like to you understand, is that we started out looking for African wildlife by renting a cheap sedan car and traveling around South Africa (Aldo Elephant Park, Kruger) until we were told about Botswana and even then, we tried to do it in a sedan car until people on Fodor’s told us that was impossible – and not at all fun.

For many people, overland self drive safaris are a luxurious way to visit and enjoy wildlife parks. Offering freedom, solitude, much, much lower prices and for the most part, put you on the same exact tracks as the private camps.

Rental campers are easily accessible, and handily maneuver over all but the rarely use and isolated tracks.

And Africa is no different than any other place on the planet. Since people have been traveling, there have been places for them to eat and sleep and lodging around the wildlife parks is always abundant and well documented.

Zambia, as most other countries in Africa, is well known for its outgoing, smiling people and is a country that has proven to be quite safe for travel. All you need are Tracks4Africa maps a Garmin GPS, and some help from Luangwablondes.

The itinerary:

24-Jul Lusaka - Wonder Gorge S14.63387 E29.12677
25-Jul Wonder Gorge – Kasanka S12.54364 E30.26291
26-Jul Kasanka - Camping Water Fall
27-Jul Water Fall – Mwansabombwe S9.82190 E28.75731
28-Jul Mwansabombwe S9.85012 E28.94425
29-Jul Mwansabombwe - Camping Water Falls

The days at Mwansabombwe well be watching the Mutombuku Ceremony

30-Jul Water Falls - Kapishya Hot Springs S11.17125 E31.60093
31-Jul Kapishya Hot Springs - Buffalo Camp S11.92399 E32.25971
1-Aug Buffalo Camp
2-Aug Buffalo Camp
3-Aug Buffalo Camp - Chikfunda Camp S11.86056 E32.43396
4-Aug Chikfunda Camp
5-Aug Chikfunda Camp - Myanya Camp S12.75586 E32.07587
6-Aug Myanya Camp - Adorata Camp S13.15647 E31.74366
7-Aug Adorata Camp
8-Aug Adorata Camp - Wildlife Camp S13.10510 E31.75212
9-Aug Wildlife Camp
10-Aug Wildlife Camp – Flatdogs S13.10330 E31.77710
11-Aug Flatdogs
12-Aug Flatdogs
13-Aug Msoro Track - Msoro Track S13.63885 E31.92544
14-Aug Msoro – LZNP S15.36052 E29.64307
15-Aug LZNP - Lusaka
16-Aug Lusaka – Chitake S16.10304 E29.48739
17-Aug Chitake
18-Aug Chitake
19-Aug Chitake
20-Aug Chitake
21-Aug Chitake
22-Aug Chitake
23-Aug Chitake - Lusaka
24-Aug Lusaka

NOTE (again): If you download Google Earth and select “Featured Content” in the LAYERS window, you can view some of the places mentioned by GPS coordinates.

At a crazy low price, Tracks4Africa
has the best computer bases travel maps, with features and waypoints updated frequently by the overland community.

Cost break down US$

July 22 – August 25, 2007

35 Traveling days
31 Camper Rental Days
2 People


Land Cost
Camper Rental - $5,000

Lodging, Food, Wildlife Park Fees, Wildlife Camper Fees, Bush Walks
Private Game Scouts, Diesel, Border Crossing Fees, Fun Shopping, Gifts

Total land cost per person/per day


Air (x2)



You could get cheaper air when booking the tickets separately, ORD/JNB and then JNB/LUN, but we decided on the convenience of checked baggage, a non-stop from LHR and the huge amount of frequent flyer miles we will accrue by taking advantage of American Airlines Frequent Flyer Fast Track Program and attaining platinum status on our return flight over Africa on this trip.

AA Fast Track Program

Camper Rental

5,000 $USD

Bushlore is the best. Read our reference letter and believe it, we are so happy and lucky to have found this company.

A 31 day camper rental with a fully equipped Land Rover TD5 110 CSW, including extras, it is a beauty.

Bushlore equipment list

Here is a link to our Bushlore camper rental photos (Africa 2006 trip) on flickr

Thank you, to Luangwablondes and all the Fodor people that have helped us in the past.
scubatv is offline  
Jul 5th, 2007, 08:11 AM
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In your itinerary, how many days do you think you will be bush walking? What makes this bush walks better then say with Robin Pope Safaris?

MrBob is offline  
Jul 5th, 2007, 08:14 AM
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Thanks for posting the itinerary for this amazing trip. I do hope you'll write a report when you return.

cw is offline  
Jul 5th, 2007, 08:34 AM
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Great itinerary, and one week at Chitake sounds fantastic.

But why all these different camps in Mfuwe? Adorata, Wildlife Camp and Flatdogs are all in the same area, and game drives always start at Mfuwe Bridge.
nyama is offline  
Jul 5th, 2007, 02:49 PM
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Mr Bob- From July 31 to Aug 12 , Jon and Karen will be in mostly remote areas where I planned they could bush walk twice a day, everyday if he choses to. These walks are normally up to 4 hours each.

The Msoro section is totally an adventure. It is off any kind of beaten path and sections are considered challenging. So we are not sure what to expect. In Chief Msoro’s area several dams were built in the late ‘90’s to attract wildlife. The village scouts under Chief Msoro have been mentioned as doing an exemplary antipoaching job , and Jon will be the 1st to check out this area; record the tracks, and report back, to the best of my knowledge.

When Jon gets to Mana Pools, he has many choices as what he can do. But the most important point is that the camp he chose is wild, pristine and most likely he and Karen will be the only ones here to enjoy a game rich area on one of the very few water sources away from the river. The game comes to you. I suggested the option of hiring a game scout to accompany him (inexpensive) part or the entire time, for bush walks and peace of mind-they all carry a rifle. This will be his 2nd time here in about 13 months.

As far as comparing to Robin Pope Safaris. Buffalo Camp’s Mark Harvey is also one of the best guides in Africa. The guides in Chifunda and Mwanya are local ex-poachers who will add insight to that area that only a local and poacher would know. This is truly special. Even the game scouts in NLNP are hired frequently from the ranks of ex-poachers after they have done their time in prison. This kind of guide will not be tainted like so many of the tourist guides that give answers to questions that they think the clients want to hear, but an answer from the knowledge and perspective of someone who lives in the bush their whole life, taught by his father, passed on from generation to generation. I camped once on a sandbar in the Luangwa River across from NLNP. with a poacher once. We shared the fire, dinner- his dried fish and nshima, my Zimbabwe beef, baked potatoes, etc. Very unusual experience for just meeting him hours before, while walking the river looking for a good place to ford the croc infested river. The interesting thing is while these camps are in the GMAs, the game sightings are good. As Nyama says- Delia Lodge of Remote Wildlife takes their bush walks into the GMA; which is very close to Chikfunda. Mwanya is in the GMA between Nsefu (close to some Robin Pope camps), Luambe NP, and across the river from SLNP. All very good for wildlife sightenings. But, no park fees or charges to ride in an operator’s crowded game vehicle. If you want to do a night drive, just drive the tracks near the camps.

Then the camps near Mfuwe all have good guides. They need to as there is competition for a lot of budget and moderate travelers here. But with Jon and Karen, I have suggested driving into the park on their own and game driving. There are some excellent areas for wildlife I outlined and to get away from the Mfuwe crowds. And in the evening, some night game driving as good as any in Africa. No park fees.

Nyama—the different camps has more to do with maximizing the game sightings. Adorata is to the south of Mfuwe. If you get up before the crack of dawn and game drive in this area, chances of seeing herds of grazers moving back to the park from the GMA are excellent. And I mean big herds. Giraffes, buffalo, zebra, are some of the game I have seen in good numbers. One of the largest herds of bufs I have seen in my life was before 6 AM around here. Adorata is close to RPS. They have had some lion and wild dog sightings recently. So, we give it a try. Moving camp to Wildlife, I have given Jon and Karen a plan for night drives that have been excellent in my experience. Then moving to Flatdogs, I wanted Jon to be closer to the beginning of the Msoro route as possible, so even saving one half hour gives him more time to enjoy and investigate the route. And this is not such a big deal as it sounds, as his tent is on the roof and he breaks camp each day anyway.

To really answer your question, Nope game drives do not always start at the Mfuwe Bridge. They start where the game are, if you know where to look, and when to look.
luangwablondes is offline  
Jul 5th, 2007, 06:13 PM
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Where and what is Chitake? pardon my ignorance....but, my limited reading of Zambia is exclusively on this forum and you know what areas have usually been discussed around here

HariS is offline  
Jul 5th, 2007, 08:24 PM
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Hari, Chitake are two very remote campsites in Mana Pools.,29.486462&spn=0.00183,0.004157&t=h&z=18& iwloc=addr&om=1,29.49371&spn=0.00183,0.004157&t=h&z=18&i wloc=addr&om=1
nyama is offline  
Jul 5th, 2007, 08:30 PM
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Oh, mana pools.....thanks.

See, i even got the country wrong!

HariS is offline  
Jul 6th, 2007, 05:29 AM
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Thanks a bunch, guys. I dreamed last night that I was doing a self-drive in South Luangwa with my mom. We came across this massive herd of elephants, trumpeting, running... fantastic! The dream was short-lived and that's about all I remember. At least we didn't get stuck anywhere or have a vehicle breakdown. Hmmm... any dream interpreters out there?
cooncat2 is offline  
Jul 6th, 2007, 08:48 AM
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Maybe a new product idea for your travel business...? ;-)
nyama is offline  
Jul 6th, 2007, 09:11 AM
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hi scubatv-

I've been communicating with Bushlore regarding a rental. My friends and I will likely be doing a self drive in Bots/Namib at the end of Sept. (rather late in planning I realize).

The Bushlore equipment list is quite extensive, but are there a few things in particular that you have found useful to bring with you? (I was trying to think of a few things to bring such as ziploc baggies or bungie cords that might be useful). Any helpful hints greatly appreciated.

cruisinred is offline  
Jul 6th, 2007, 02:40 PM
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sounds like an exciting trip! how do you prepare for something like this? I mean "in case of" something happening. I've heard stories of broken axles, stuck in mud for 5 days and surrounded by hyenas when found, medical emergency etc. what do you do? not like you could call AAA and arrange a tow. Would love to do something like this but don't think I'd have the balls. Please report back when you return!
Have a great time!
matnikstym is offline  
Jul 6th, 2007, 05:26 PM
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Emergencies and breakdowns are issues every self drive should consider. # 1 is to find a rental operator that has a good reputation for maintaining their vehicles and if there is a problem, responds quickly to rectify it so the self drive can continue. In scubatv’s case, he found just that in Bushlore. 2nd, he should have a backup in case of just that emergency. There are a couple alternatives, like a personal locator beacon. But this is only good in places that have set up some sort of response protocols. It only works for downed planes in Zambia. Cell phones are good if you stay on the beaten path, but in scubatv, a significant portion of his trip is remote with no cell service. SLNP now has service though. So his best backup is a sat phone, a gps and a save your own arse plan. With a sat phone he can call Bushlore, make an emergency call for an airlift, be able to notify a safari operator, ZAWA, or whatever is in his plan for help. The gps coordinates can be significant in expediting his rescue. But this is really rare. Part of doing a self drive is to be self reliant, making good decisions, and you would be amazed of the help that can show up when you need it--- this is from my own experience during my travels in an old series landrover in Southern and East Africa. I’m not a mechanic either, so I have always relied on bush mechanics.

It isn’t really about getting up the nerve to do something like this, but research, preparation and planning. Jon and Karen are as well versed to do this as anybody I’ve seen for this type of trip.

luangwablondes is offline  
Jul 6th, 2007, 05:47 PM
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You mentioned something about being surrounded by hyenas as an emergency. The solution to just about anything wildlife is to do nothing. Ellies, lion, hyenas in the camp normally have very little interest in you. Just sit in your tent or vehicle and they'll go away normally. If you do have a wildlife problem, it probably has to do with not policing the grounds of your trash and leaving food, supplies, a cooler, or something out that attracts them. Oranges are a something people don't think about. Some elephants have developed a taste for them and will rip into the vehicle whether you are in it or not. So don't feed the wildlife. I've had a lot of problems on my 1st trips to Africa with vervet monkeys and baboons at campsites that have obviously been fed. So I close the vehicle doors immediatedly, even if I am going to return 10 seconds later. They'll take over the vehicle and you'll have hell to pay to get them out.

All this becomes 2nd nature after a while.
luangwablondes is offline  
Jul 6th, 2007, 06:04 PM
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Thanks luangwablondes for your explanation. I guess it takes a lot of preparation and planning, something I'm not doing reading this on my computer. Think it would be an incredible trip!
matnikstym is offline  
Jul 6th, 2007, 06:34 PM
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What about differentiating Mock charge vs real charge? I couldn't do this trip, personally but.....sounds like a fantastic trip!

HariS is offline  
Jul 6th, 2007, 07:09 PM
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agree Hari! Would be fun though!
matnikstym is offline  
Jul 6th, 2007, 11:12 PM
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I think you should be more concerned about your guide pushing the envelope with clients in order to impress them, then being caught in a situation and not being able to handle it on your own. Most neophyte selfdrives over compensate to the side of caution and safety then is necessary. It can be humorous to watch at times.
luangwablondes is offline  
Jul 7th, 2007, 05:35 AM
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yeah...humourous, indeed! LOL!!!
HariS is offline  
Jul 8th, 2007, 09:17 AM
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I always find it amusing to watch some of these entertaining guides in such situations... if the smile freezes... because they aren't sure if this mock charge will turn into the real thing. Sometimes I wonder who is more frightened - the clients or the guide. (I guess the guide.) And sometimes I wish I had my own car.
nyama is offline  

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